In Cape Town for Africa’s Green Economic Summit, William Dachs, Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) CEO, reminded that the public transport agency’s current concession with Bombela ends in March 2026.
“Then the assets are fully paid off and ready for use in a new concession-type arrangement,” said Dachs, pointing out this would then be the perfect opportunity to reinvest in the system and grow it even further. The Agency has completed National Treasury Feasibility Studies and is ready to launch the procurement post-2026 project in April. They will host a formal market engagement in Johannesburg in the last week of March.
Enumerating the Agency’s many successes since opening its doors 13 years ago, Dachs indicated that the GMA are the only A-grade public infrastructure in South Africa, with an asset value of R45 billion connecting Gauteng’s three metros and the largest PPP in the country.
It is the only rail system in SA to adopt world standards in electronic ticket systems, which accept any form of payment for travel on trains and buses. The GMA is the only public transport system with formal contracts with minibus taxi associations and makes a quantifiable impact of R2.60 for every rand invested. Over R6 billion was spent on local goods and services in the last years – R5bn through black-owned businesses and SMMEs.
SSEG for provinces is the way to go
Explaining his other reasons for attending Africa’s Green Economic Summit (AGES), Dachs started off by talking about South Africa’s energy situation.
“There is a growing realisation that solutions to the current electricity supply crisis lie as much in small, scalable solutions at municipal and provincial levels as they do at Megawatt park [Eskom’s head office],” said Dachs.
Referencing Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s recent announcement to allocate R1,2 billion to boost energy supply in the province of Gauteng, Dachs pointed out that part of this would be used to put solar panels on the rooftops of government buildings, including Gautrain stations, for solar generation.
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Part of that money would also be used to create larger-scale renewable energy generators in the province. “I see the same restlessness and the same approach towards self-reliance here in Cape Town with moves towards smaller scale IPPs and even domestic feed-in rates.
“If solving the energy crisis means combining increased self-reliance in generation with renewable sources and financing that off the public balance sheets, then achieving national green energy commitments suddenly becomes more believable,” said Dachs.
Green economy for transport infrastructure too
He said his second reason for attending AGES is transport-related. He was pleased by discussion topics such as mobility for social inclusion and economic opportunity, urban sustainability, and smart cities. However, Dachs was worried that people would be too caught up in discussions on making cars and trucks more carbon-efficient and using technology better and smarter in our cities.
“The real challenge lies outside these doors, on the N1 a few hundred metres away, and the N2 a few kilometres away, and on countless urban roads in South Africa and in Africa.”
Dachs thinks the true challenge is the “massive and regressive” move away from rail-based passenger transport to road-based modes of transport such as private cars and minibus taxis. “Add in another long-term shift of freight from road to rail, and we have the perfect storm of growing urbanisation, increasing road usage, congestion and carbon emissions.”
SA transit systems need to revamp
To give some sense of perspective on the problem, while Gauteng road traffic volumes consistently grow at around 7% per annum, the national rail network has shed around 500 million annual rail passenger trips per annum in South Africa over the last 10 years… they shifted mode into a highly unregulated and inefficient road-based transport.”
Dachs said he was not arguing against a shift towards electric vehicles or hydrogen-based fuels which he sees as a necessity, but a “failure to grow and develop our urban guided transit systems.”
“We have a great National Rail Policy, what we need is action, and part of that action is accelerated planning of and investment in urban rail systems. If the provinces and cities of this country are now having to face up to and help tackle the national problem of electricity supply, why on earth will we not have to do exactly the same in the rail sector?
“Issues like better urban planning, sensible ways of getting private sector participation into transport have got to be on the agenda,” said Dachs.